Greening Your Kitchen: Switch to Glass Storage Containers

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I've been concerned about the toxins in plastic for several years but, now that I have a baby, I'm a lot more freaked out about them. Not only are there millions of plastic baby products (most of which are made in China, which does not have the best record when it comes to consumer safety) but my sweet, little, 8-month-old son also wants to put each and every one of them in his mouth! This does not seem like the the best combo to me...

My little Will with mouth and eyes open wide!

So far, the hoopla has all centered around BPA (Bisphenol A), an organic compound that serves as a building block of several common plastics. Unfortunately, BPA also happens to be an endocrine disruptor which can mimic the body's own hormones (estrogen, specifically) and leads to negative health effects including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, and developmental problems. And, sadly, babies and kids are the most sensitive to its disruptive and harmful effects. Pretty scary stuff...

Although my husband and I ditched our Nalgene bottles in favor of stainless steel water bottles quite a few years back and I seek out BPA-free plastic products when I am buying, I knew there was more we could do to keep these nasty toxins out of our home.


One easy step I took recently was to invest in glass storage containers since the idea of toxic chemicals leaching into our food (and our baby's food) gives me the heebie jeebies. In addition to avoiding the toxic chemicals, there are a couple of other side benefits to using glass instead of plastic/Tupperware.
Frigoverre glass storage containers
  • Glass is easier to clean and more hygienic than plastic. Since glass does not degrade like plastic, your glass storage containers will not get stained by tomato sauce, nor will it retain food odors.
  • You can heat food up directly in it in either a regular or microwave oven. Although I'm kind of anti-microwave, when I do use one, I always transfer my food out of the plastic container and into either glass or ceramic since heat causes plastic to break down and leach chemicals into your food more readily. You can also put tempered glass into the oven without needing to transfer it to another dish which saves time and washing.
  • It's pretty! I love the look and feel of the glassware -- it's got a much nicer aesthetic than the crappy plastic that gets stained and pitted fairly quickly.
If you're not sure where to start, below are some companies that make sturdy glass containers of different sizes and shapes (the Crate and Barrel Outlet is also a great source for these things.) I've also gotten good deals on glass containers on Amazon.com.

Some of these companies make containers with glass lids but most of the products you'll find have plastic tops, some of which use safer plastics (no BPA or PVC) but you should check to make sure when you buy. 

Pint Glass Storage Bowls - courtesy of Crate & Barrel web site

I'd also recommend removing the plastic top before heating anything up, regardless of how "safe" the plastic is supposed to be as I suspect pretty soon we'll be hearing that all plastics leach toxic chemicals of one type or another.

I also stumbled on a great site called The Soft Landing when I was researching these products - it's an excellent resource if you want to start reducing your exposure to toxins.

I recommend making this switch ASAP. The glassware will last a long time (longer than the plastic) and it will help to keep you and your family safe from the harmful effects of plastic as well as keeping a little more junk out of our landfills.
Greening Your Kitchen logo
In case you missed the earlier entries in this series, see below for more ways to Green Your Kitchen.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

sadly, though, I don't know how to carry my salads and leftovers safely in a glass bowl to work. I'm still stuck with carrying them in plastic containers.

Marc R said...

Also: Jars! Free, come in lots of shapes and sizes, and have watertight lids that stay watertight forever... GooGone takes away the sticky label adhesive.

Eve Fox said...

Hi Anonymous,
I'm not advocating using a glass bowl, for what it's worth, these containers are specifically made for exactly the purpose you mentioned -- carrying leftovers to work -- so they are sturdy and come with well-fitting lids that don't come off.

It's obviously your choice, but if it helps get you over making this leap I am happy to report that I carry my leftovers to work (I either walk or ride a bike) in glass containers without any problems -- there's never any more leaking than you'd have with a tupperware and they've never broken or chipped or anything.

They are a little heavier than the plastic containers but it's not a big deal unless you're carrying something a lot larger than a lunch.

Nicole said...

My husband uses glass containers for work all the time. It works well.

Another good thing is switching all your beans/rice/lentils/dried fruit/etc to mason jars and out of plastic. You can get them cheap at craft stores and they have a nice feel when when you open the cabinet and see them all lined up. Much better than plastic canisters and other plastic containers!

Ann Vileisis said...

I've made this leap, too, Eve. My solution was to use what I already had--plain glass bowls (Anchor) and then saucers on top for lids. They stack well in the fridge, and, of course, glass makes it easy to see what's inside. I think glass containers are easier than plastic to clean, too.

Thanks for all your posts encouraging us to make our kitchens greener --such a good thing to do. Also, your baby is adorable!

Eve Fox said...

I'm with you on the mason jars, Nicole. and thanks Ann!

Kirsten Lindquist said...

I also use mason jars (of all shapes and sizes) for carrying food to work. Most work sites provide dishes, so I just empty salads or leftovers onto the office dishes. Glass containers are great because them you can actually see what you have leftover to eat! (Instead of forgetting what was in that white plastic container!)

Alicia [The Soft Landing] said...

Thanks so much for recommending our website for safe product options!

NatureWriter said...

I used to carry all sorts of things around in glass, but after a couple of dramatic public breakages, I reconsidered. I have friends who have stainless steel carriers for their food and they rave about them, so I may go that direction. In the meantime, I've been wrapping mason jars in crocheted hemp twine or thick fabric. Check out http://www.greenhome.com/products/kitchen/food_storage/109944/

Juliana said...

I bought glass storage containers and they are great, but I never figured out what to do with the old plastic ones, and my shelf is now full of an assortment of plastic and glass containers. I suppose i should just get rid of the plastic ones, but I hate to throw anything away, especially if it is going to sit in a landfill forever.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate these posts. Wondering if you'd consider writing a post on eggs, like your past post about which milk is the "right" milk. So many options at this point!

Eve Fox said...

Great idea! I am happy to add that to the list.

Anonymous said...

I use mason jars all the time. You might also check out tiffin boxes. That is what I send to the jobsite with my husband.

Just a note on plastics: I noticed in an older post that you cook chicken in parchment. Did you know that parchment paper is just plasticized paper? I was horrified to find that one out. I am happy to see you take environmental toxins seriously with such a cute little man in the house.

Eve Fox said...

Hi there,
I love tiffins -- we've got two sets for carrying lunch to work and for bringing leftovers back from restaurants. I featured them in my green gift guide two years ago.

That is awful about the parchment paper! I use an unbleached one made by a company in Sweden (the brand is called Beyond Gourmet) that claims to have high environmental/non-toxic standards but you never know, I guess. I've emailed them to find out if there is plastic in the stuff and if there is, I will totally stop using it and never recommend it to anyone! Thanks for the heads up.

Beth Lowe said...

Just found your blog, and I'm so glad to have done so; it's great. I made the switch over to glass storage containers about a year ago. I repurposed as many of the old containers as I could, for craft and office supplies, non-organic gardening supplies (like labels and things), and lots of the bits and pieces that seem to accumulate every time there's a new home repair job to tackle. The others I recycled, which doesn't necessarily solve the problem, I realize.

One of the things I like most about the glass storage containers, besides safety, though, is that the food seems to keep its integrity better and stay fresher longer. Is that just me? I'd like to know about the parchment paper, too. I've been using that instead of the plastic lids, which is the one thing I'm not thrilled with. I use a brand that says, "not coated," so if you find out anything, I'd love to hear. Thanks for all the info.

Eve Fox said...

Hey Beth, thanks so much! glad you've made the switch. I found it so hard to get rid of actual tupperwares somehow -- big psychological barrier to doing away with something you paid for maybe?

As for the parchment paper, I did check with Beyond Gourmet which is made by a Swedish Company and they got back to me really quickly (within minutes!) and let me know that their parchment paper is unbleached and that it is lined with silicone which does not contain any BPA, at least. I believe that silicone is one of the safest plastics out there at the moment though to be honest learning that the paper is coated with anything kind of dampened my enthusiasm for the idea of cooking food in it.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of freezing leftovers in used (organic) yoghurt containers? The number inside the triangle on the bottom is 5. The manufacturer is Polytainers inc, I see they're Canadian...

Eve Fox said...

Freezer storage containers is a really good question and one that I have not answered to my own satisfaction yet. Obviously, it'd be better to use something that is more stable (glass or metal) but those are not incredibly well suited to freezers.

I admit that I do use old yogurt containers to freeze things like stock and tomato sauce. I do this because they're so handy and disposable and also because my understanding on the plastic leeching/breaking down is that it's more of a problem when heat is involved as that excites the molecules where as cold does the opposite (but I am in no way an expert or any kind of scientist so this could very well be wrong.) I do make sure never to put whatever I am storing into the yogurt containers hot or warm -- let it cool down completely in the fridge before transferring it. And I don't reuse the yogurt containers for freezer storage more than once.

Shawn R. Sargent said...

I'm an advocate for turning my entire home over to safe non toxic Glass and stainless steel.
My favorite are storage containers.
I use them everyday, but still working on tranfering over to the safe non-toxic kinds.
Thank you so much for this post, education is key for healthier lives for consumers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Greening Your Kitchen: Switch to Glass Storage Containers

I've been concerned about the toxins in plastic for several years but, now that I have a baby, I'm a lot more freaked out about them. Not only are there millions of plastic baby products (most of which are made in China, which does not have the best record when it comes to consumer safety) but my sweet, little, 8-month-old son also wants to put each and every one of them in his mouth! This does not seem like the the best combo to me...

My little Will with mouth and eyes open wide!

So far, the hoopla has all centered around BPA (Bisphenol A), an organic compound that serves as a building block of several common plastics. Unfortunately, BPA also happens to be an endocrine disruptor which can mimic the body's own hormones (estrogen, specifically) and leads to negative health effects including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, infertility, and developmental problems. And, sadly, babies and kids are the most sensitive to its disruptive and harmful effects. Pretty scary stuff...

Although my husband and I ditched our Nalgene bottles in favor of stainless steel water bottles quite a few years back and I seek out BPA-free plastic products when I am buying, I knew there was more we could do to keep these nasty toxins out of our home.


One easy step I took recently was to invest in glass storage containers since the idea of toxic chemicals leaching into our food (and our baby's food) gives me the heebie jeebies. In addition to avoiding the toxic chemicals, there are a couple of other side benefits to using glass instead of plastic/Tupperware.
Frigoverre glass storage containers
  • Glass is easier to clean and more hygienic than plastic. Since glass does not degrade like plastic, your glass storage containers will not get stained by tomato sauce, nor will it retain food odors.
  • You can heat food up directly in it in either a regular or microwave oven. Although I'm kind of anti-microwave, when I do use one, I always transfer my food out of the plastic container and into either glass or ceramic since heat causes plastic to break down and leach chemicals into your food more readily. You can also put tempered glass into the oven without needing to transfer it to another dish which saves time and washing.
  • It's pretty! I love the look and feel of the glassware -- it's got a much nicer aesthetic than the crappy plastic that gets stained and pitted fairly quickly.
If you're not sure where to start, below are some companies that make sturdy glass containers of different sizes and shapes (the Crate and Barrel Outlet is also a great source for these things.) I've also gotten good deals on glass containers on Amazon.com.

Some of these companies make containers with glass lids but most of the products you'll find have plastic tops, some of which use safer plastics (no BPA or PVC) but you should check to make sure when you buy. 

Pint Glass Storage Bowls - courtesy of Crate & Barrel web site

I'd also recommend removing the plastic top before heating anything up, regardless of how "safe" the plastic is supposed to be as I suspect pretty soon we'll be hearing that all plastics leach toxic chemicals of one type or another.

I also stumbled on a great site called The Soft Landing when I was researching these products - it's an excellent resource if you want to start reducing your exposure to toxins.

I recommend making this switch ASAP. The glassware will last a long time (longer than the plastic) and it will help to keep you and your family safe from the harmful effects of plastic as well as keeping a little more junk out of our landfills.
Greening Your Kitchen logo
In case you missed the earlier entries in this series, see below for more ways to Green Your Kitchen.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

sadly, though, I don't know how to carry my salads and leftovers safely in a glass bowl to work. I'm still stuck with carrying them in plastic containers.

Marc R said...

Also: Jars! Free, come in lots of shapes and sizes, and have watertight lids that stay watertight forever... GooGone takes away the sticky label adhesive.

Eve Fox said...

Hi Anonymous,
I'm not advocating using a glass bowl, for what it's worth, these containers are specifically made for exactly the purpose you mentioned -- carrying leftovers to work -- so they are sturdy and come with well-fitting lids that don't come off.

It's obviously your choice, but if it helps get you over making this leap I am happy to report that I carry my leftovers to work (I either walk or ride a bike) in glass containers without any problems -- there's never any more leaking than you'd have with a tupperware and they've never broken or chipped or anything.

They are a little heavier than the plastic containers but it's not a big deal unless you're carrying something a lot larger than a lunch.

Nicole said...

My husband uses glass containers for work all the time. It works well.

Another good thing is switching all your beans/rice/lentils/dried fruit/etc to mason jars and out of plastic. You can get them cheap at craft stores and they have a nice feel when when you open the cabinet and see them all lined up. Much better than plastic canisters and other plastic containers!

Ann Vileisis said...

I've made this leap, too, Eve. My solution was to use what I already had--plain glass bowls (Anchor) and then saucers on top for lids. They stack well in the fridge, and, of course, glass makes it easy to see what's inside. I think glass containers are easier than plastic to clean, too.

Thanks for all your posts encouraging us to make our kitchens greener --such a good thing to do. Also, your baby is adorable!

Eve Fox said...

I'm with you on the mason jars, Nicole. and thanks Ann!

Kirsten Lindquist said...

I also use mason jars (of all shapes and sizes) for carrying food to work. Most work sites provide dishes, so I just empty salads or leftovers onto the office dishes. Glass containers are great because them you can actually see what you have leftover to eat! (Instead of forgetting what was in that white plastic container!)

Alicia [The Soft Landing] said...

Thanks so much for recommending our website for safe product options!

NatureWriter said...

I used to carry all sorts of things around in glass, but after a couple of dramatic public breakages, I reconsidered. I have friends who have stainless steel carriers for their food and they rave about them, so I may go that direction. In the meantime, I've been wrapping mason jars in crocheted hemp twine or thick fabric. Check out http://www.greenhome.com/products/kitchen/food_storage/109944/

Juliana said...

I bought glass storage containers and they are great, but I never figured out what to do with the old plastic ones, and my shelf is now full of an assortment of plastic and glass containers. I suppose i should just get rid of the plastic ones, but I hate to throw anything away, especially if it is going to sit in a landfill forever.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate these posts. Wondering if you'd consider writing a post on eggs, like your past post about which milk is the "right" milk. So many options at this point!

Eve Fox said...

Great idea! I am happy to add that to the list.

Anonymous said...

I use mason jars all the time. You might also check out tiffin boxes. That is what I send to the jobsite with my husband.

Just a note on plastics: I noticed in an older post that you cook chicken in parchment. Did you know that parchment paper is just plasticized paper? I was horrified to find that one out. I am happy to see you take environmental toxins seriously with such a cute little man in the house.

Eve Fox said...

Hi there,
I love tiffins -- we've got two sets for carrying lunch to work and for bringing leftovers back from restaurants. I featured them in my green gift guide two years ago.

That is awful about the parchment paper! I use an unbleached one made by a company in Sweden (the brand is called Beyond Gourmet) that claims to have high environmental/non-toxic standards but you never know, I guess. I've emailed them to find out if there is plastic in the stuff and if there is, I will totally stop using it and never recommend it to anyone! Thanks for the heads up.

Beth Lowe said...

Just found your blog, and I'm so glad to have done so; it's great. I made the switch over to glass storage containers about a year ago. I repurposed as many of the old containers as I could, for craft and office supplies, non-organic gardening supplies (like labels and things), and lots of the bits and pieces that seem to accumulate every time there's a new home repair job to tackle. The others I recycled, which doesn't necessarily solve the problem, I realize.

One of the things I like most about the glass storage containers, besides safety, though, is that the food seems to keep its integrity better and stay fresher longer. Is that just me? I'd like to know about the parchment paper, too. I've been using that instead of the plastic lids, which is the one thing I'm not thrilled with. I use a brand that says, "not coated," so if you find out anything, I'd love to hear. Thanks for all the info.

Eve Fox said...

Hey Beth, thanks so much! glad you've made the switch. I found it so hard to get rid of actual tupperwares somehow -- big psychological barrier to doing away with something you paid for maybe?

As for the parchment paper, I did check with Beyond Gourmet which is made by a Swedish Company and they got back to me really quickly (within minutes!) and let me know that their parchment paper is unbleached and that it is lined with silicone which does not contain any BPA, at least. I believe that silicone is one of the safest plastics out there at the moment though to be honest learning that the paper is coated with anything kind of dampened my enthusiasm for the idea of cooking food in it.

Anonymous said...

What do you think of freezing leftovers in used (organic) yoghurt containers? The number inside the triangle on the bottom is 5. The manufacturer is Polytainers inc, I see they're Canadian...

Eve Fox said...

Freezer storage containers is a really good question and one that I have not answered to my own satisfaction yet. Obviously, it'd be better to use something that is more stable (glass or metal) but those are not incredibly well suited to freezers.

I admit that I do use old yogurt containers to freeze things like stock and tomato sauce. I do this because they're so handy and disposable and also because my understanding on the plastic leeching/breaking down is that it's more of a problem when heat is involved as that excites the molecules where as cold does the opposite (but I am in no way an expert or any kind of scientist so this could very well be wrong.) I do make sure never to put whatever I am storing into the yogurt containers hot or warm -- let it cool down completely in the fridge before transferring it. And I don't reuse the yogurt containers for freezer storage more than once.

Shawn R. Sargent said...

I'm an advocate for turning my entire home over to safe non toxic Glass and stainless steel.
My favorite are storage containers.
I use them everyday, but still working on tranfering over to the safe non-toxic kinds.
Thank you so much for this post, education is key for healthier lives for consumers.